Sir Walter Miler: Passing the Torch
Andie Cozzarelli: 2015 Sir Walter Miler
I still remember what it felt like standing on the start line. The adrenaline was running through me. Butterflies were buzzing in the pit of my stomach. As I peared side to side, I felt out of place, slightly terrified, and unsure of why I was doing this to myself. My final stride as I approached the line was met with a roar of excitement as the crowd cheered in each athlete’s passing. The cheers invigorated me, but when the calmness set in and the starting gun was within sight, I felt the nerves take over.
“I’m not a miler.” I made sure everyone knew I wasn’t a miler beforehand in effort to protect myself from embarrassment in front of the hometown crowd. I was insecure about the idea of racing a field of fast women looking to break 4:30. The official Sir Walter Miler was only in its 3rd year, but the field had grown; the fan fare attendance had doubled, and I was officially racing on Oiselle’s Haute Volee team. The stakes were higher.
As scared as I was, I knew this race wasn’t something I could pass up. I knew being part of it would be something I would always look back on with pride. But when you’re minutes away from an unfamiliar setting, ready to run your heart out with everyone watching, those thoughts are the furthest from your mind. What I didn’t know going into this race was that I was about to have the best season of my career. And it all started with the 2015 Sir Walter Miler. I left that night with a mile PR, a 5th place finish, and the confidence I needed to push forward into a new season. No matter what place I came in, time I ran, or race I laid down, I realized the insecurities and fears of embarrassment were all in my own head. This race was a game changer for me. So, as the 2016 Sir Walter Miler rolled around, I was proud to pass the torch to eventual teammate: Sarah Rapp.
Sarah Rapp: 2017 Sir Walter Miler
Last place. It’s the outcome that once you embrace, you are able to run freely and fearlessly. However backwards this is to anything anyone has ever told you about competing, it works. How do I know this?? Read on young grasshopper...
The statement, “You are going to come in last place, but it’s still going to be awesome,” would have made just as much sense as 10 seconds of a Spanish Telenovela to me in 2016. For the first time since college, I lined up with high quality (professional) runners, carrying along my FEAR of the inevitable; paralyzed from the perception of shame I would experience from coming in last place in front of the city I grew up in, with an audience comprised of everyone who has only ever known me as the person who wins every race. It wasn’t pretty…let’s just say, I still had half a lap to go when the rest of the race was finishing.
I never wanted to do this race again. I didn’t. I couldn’t. SWM 2016 broke me. But of course, a year came and went, and I found myself once again on the starting line in 2017. This time, I knew what to expect. I was determined to make coming in last place COOL. My warm-up consisted of running around the track, collecting high-fives, cheering on others who were racing, and laughing. Lots of laughing.
The race was one of the best executed and toughest races I’ve ever conducted. I went out with the pros and held on; staying in the mix for the entire race (towards the back of course!!) -- and even came in striking distance of BEATING an established professional mile runner. I was running fearlessly, with nothing to prove and without a care in the world.
Logistically, it made absolutely no sense for me to get a 4 second Personal Record (PR) in the mile that night: I had my impacted wisdom teeth removed exactly one week before the race, and hadn’t been taking training seriously in the months leading up to the race, and I certainly did not identify as a miler. The PR was produced from the freedom I felt; even though it was obvious that I would be defending my last place title, with the “worst case scenario” still being an honor and the power of my city surrounding me and screaming for me.
As Sammy prepares to race, we hope that she is able to learn from us, as her teammates and previous two torch bearers. This is our letter to her as she prepares for the fateful First Friday in August, also known as the Sir Walter Miler.
For more info on how to join the fun or tune in either in person or online check here: https://sirwaltermiler.com/